Chinese, happiness

Life: 2013 is a year of reconnection

My mother bought me.. by shimmertje
My mother bought me.., a photo by shimmertje on Flickr.

It is just amazing how you receive blasts from the past. I had made a whole lot of connections with people from school and work through Facebook. Combing LinkedIn had helped with more, those with fairly unique names anyway.

I never really thought to turn to plain Google, but this year I did. That's how I found TQ with a bit of guesswork. We had written to each other a lot when in school, but lost touch after university. She was back in her hometown, practising what she had studied at university. What were the odds of that? I sent a vague email to her office email, naming her brother (now deceased :() and where her uncle had worked. She wrote back!

Google found me someone else whom I often bumped into at work events. I had the pleasure of bringing him and his wife around Hong Kong when they visited. We lost touch soon after that visit. FB and LinkedIn drew blanks, though I had expected him to be on both, it being related to his line of work. He had become a life coach! We are on Whatsapp now.

At work, I bumped into JT at a client event. I had wanted to reconnect with her many times, but I couldn't find her on Facebook or LinkedIn (turns out she has LinkedIn, but her name is too common, and Instagram, but under a username that combines her children's names). We had been close at university, and lost touch since then. I was standing in a corner of the room, and by complete coincidence -- in a room with more than 100 people -- she stood near me and made a request. We've managed to lunch once, and expect to see each other again in September.

And then there was the major secondary school reunion. I found ex-classmates from primary school and secondary school too. We even have our private Whatsapp group where we inspire each other with achievements and advice. It is amazing what a shared background can do.. years on :) So SL, CS, TJ, JT, AL, BS, I really appreciate the opportunity to get to know you again. And SW, GG, YY, CC, LL, WY, SZ, MW, the opportunity to chat the way we do now, because we were never close at school.

All this suddenly brought me to recall a couple in university. He proposed to her online, and I remember she was troubled as she is Muslim and he was not. Long distance relationships come with their challenges, too. I met him when he came to Singapore to visit her. I remembered his first name, and her chat name - hardly anything to work with!

So.. I Googled 'Muslim' and then his name, and 'Singapore'. He is on LinkedIn; older to be sure, but still in Singapore, and with a Muslim name, a good sign. I tried to connect, as he is a 3rd degree connection (yes, amazingly so) but LinkedIn did not allow me to explain who I am. He probably thinks I am some random stranger with strange ideas of connection.

I tried Facebook as well, using the name on LinkedIn. Both of them are on Facebook but it appears she doesn't use it often. They have public pages.. and five beautiful daughters. I sent them both Facebook mail with my number, and requested connections, but again FB mails of non-connections go to a separate mailbox. So.. I tried. Who knows why I remembered them all of a sudden, and that I got as far as I did in tracking them down. At least I know that story had a happy ending. That's enough.

Chinese, happiness

Life: Me and crashing glass

P1010662

On February 28th, 2012, I blogged about how glass seems to crash when I'm around. Well, it happened again late last year, in September 2012. I was upstairs, and then there was this crash downstairs. The glass doors of a cabinet had decided to give up. What Shanlung thinks happened is that there was a flag balanced on one of the doors, and it had exerted just enough pressure over time to have this happen.

Which brings me back to an incident when I was in school, and I thought this crashing sound had been from the cats in the neighbourhood outside. It turned out to be the mirror mounted in the bathroom.

So yes, glass and me don't seem to get along well. But rest assured, I am never actually physically near the glass when it happens.

Click on the picture to see more pictures of life in Doha.
Chinese, happiness

Tech: iPhone vs Samsung

New phone. #expensive #android #iphone5cracked

So my iPhone died and it didn't seem to make much sense to pay to replace the screen if it was half the cost of the phone. It didn't make sense to get another iPhone either, though it really is painless to backup your phone and then get the backup installed onto your new phone.

I got a Samsung Galaxy S4 instead. The first thing I noticed was how much easier it is to type on the phone, key by key. Fewer mistakes, no need to type spaces,and if you need to correct anything there is a large pencil shaped graphic that you touch and drag to get the cursor where you want. Much, much friendlier! There is predictive text as well and it can be quite accurate.

Then I found out how to switch on the swipe function. That's it. I can never go back to the iPhone keyboard again, unless they have swipe and the cursor control too.

Then there is the little matter of using the phone as a phone. The iPhone doesn't allow you to copy phone numbers easily, whereas the Galaxy S4 does. Bliss, especially when you have to rebuild your phone book from scratch.

Having said that it is not strictly from scratch. The phone allows me to tap on my Gmail phone book. And my Facebook contacts. And my Whatsapp contacts too. It knows that the same person can have different identities on different networks and makes intelligent suggestions about which entries might be about the same person.

Storage? I just added a micro sd card. Plus I am backed up onto Dropbox for free for the next two years because of the phone. A good thing, because you can download files straight onto your phone. No iTunes.

Love it. Is there anything to hate? I have to be honest, yes. I miss the clarity of the Retina display. On the other hand the Amoled screen sucks less battery life so I can see that my phone battery is lasting longer even though the Galaxy screen is larger. Maybe it's the added storage, but things seem to load faster too.

And yes, Android is complicated. Things don't always work as logically as on the iPhone. There are way more options on how to tweak your phone. Too many. I still get lost because the commands and the apps are scattered everywhere. I can't get straight to my favourite apps the way I could with the iPhone.

But hey. I am writing a blog entry on my phone with minimal typos. Beat that.

I am still feeling my way around.I like to think that the iPhone will stay relevant. Many of my ex-classmates have iPhones. But all in all, iOS needs to step up. Or it's going to lose its fan base.
Chinese, happiness

Tech woes: Ipernity won't give me an account

Yahoo got a lot of publicity over its free terabyte of space for pictures. What was less obvious was that existing Flickr users were a little shortchanged, and many have left to join something that looks a lot like the old Flickr: Ipernity.

I decided to create an account using my usual email address. Ipernity said I needed to confirm the address. Sure. I click on the confirmation link, and it returns me to the 'you must confirm your address' page. OK, maybe there's some other thing I have to do. There are only 3 buttons on this page: 'change email address', 'resend the confirmation link', and 'do it later'.

I try 'resend the confirmation link'. It leads me to 'you have already confirmed this email address; go to your space'. There is hope. So I click on 'go to your space'.. and I am back to 'you must confirm your address'.

I try 'do it later'. I am logged out and firmly told I have to confirm my address.

I try to log in. I am presented with 'you must confirm your address'.

I try 'change email address'. I am shown 'you must confirm your address'. I try to confirm this second email address. It leads me to 'you have already confirmed this email address; go to your space'. There is hope. So I click on 'go to your space'.. and I am back to .. of course.. 'you must confirm your address'.

I email technical support. They send me a link. Which asks me to log in. Whut?

I then try logging in via Facebook - amazing! I am in! I sign out, and log in by email address. I am shown.. 'you must confirm your address'.

I log in again through Facebook. It's hard to believe, but Ipernity actually does have a working site in there, behind 'you must confirm your address'. I try to change my password. It tells me either my email address or my password is invalid.

Hm. So I try the 'forgot password' link. I get an email.. not at the first email address, but at the second. OK. I click on the link. It gets me through.. to 'you must confirm your address'!

Sometimes.. you just have to accept that you're not wanted. I really think it might be time to move off of Flickr but this is ridiculous.
Chinese, happiness

Birds: The Falcon Souq, Doha

P1000950 by shimmertje
P1000950, a photo by shimmertje on Flickr.



Yes, a whole souq for falcons. We never saw this in Oman because falconry is banned there, so of course we had to go.

Getting to the Falcon Souq is quite an adventure. Googling doesn't really help, with a lot of mysterious 'he pointed me around an alley' type directions. It's also misleading that the souq is typically described to be part of the Souq Waqif, as it's not a special area within the souq but a completely separate building. We went round several times, and there is a pet area selling pet birds like parrots, budgies and rainbow chicks, but no falcons. We wondered if it was only open in winter, or if it had been completely demolished. Asking for falcons usually elicits blank stares.

What you REALLY do is get to this square with a police post kinda of in the centre. As of late 2012, there was a Haagen Dazs outlet roughly opposite the police post. Walk past the Haagen Dazs, which should be on your right. You get to a carpark on the left. The Falcon Souq is this multi-storey building with blue bits across the carpark.

There are lots of falcons. Lots and lots and lots. Many, many more than in the Falconry and Heritage Centre in Dubai.

We didn't have time to go again. It is a male-only preserve, by the way, as is (in hindsight) the Falcon Centre. It is best to keep that in mind if you want to go as a family.

Click on the picture to view a larger version of it, or to get to the folder of pictures of Doha 2012.

Chinese, happiness

Tech: too many social platforms, not enough time

IMG_2295

Capturing eyeballs and mindshare is an easy enough concept to understand, but pretty difficult to achieve because there are so many social media platforms that your target audience might be on. This is how it works for me:

Twitter during waits and commutes
Whatsapp when I need to talk to anyone or arrange a meeting with several people
LinkedIn at work, to check backgrounds of work acquaintances or potential clients; putting people in touch with each other on a professional basis
Facebook at work, because we need to track clients and/or do work for clients via Facebook
Instagram at mealtimes outside of the home
Pinterest at bedtime or on weekends and holidays
Livejournal when I have something to share with people in general, as opposed to Facebook or Twitter friends

..which actually leaves me with no time to check email much, especially when mail is also available on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

SMS ads do not work for me - they just don't seem to be about anything I am interested in. TV ads? TV is relegated to mealtimes at home. It just doesn't get that much airtime do to speak.

Wonder how others cope?

Click on the picture to view a larger version or to get to the folder of pictures of home at Muscat 2010.
Chinese, happiness

Livejournal: So I got an email that Livejournal is purging my blog

IMG_2994

Interesting considering I had made a post in September.

Here's the text purported to be from lj_notify@livejournal.com:

LiveJournal is planning to start deleting inactive empty accounts. Pursuant to our housekeeping policy, your LiveJournal account xxx is scheduled to be deleted in 15 days.

If you wish to reactivate your account to avoid deleting, please visit http://www.livejournal.com and log in within 15 days of this notification.
If you do not remember the password for your account, you can reset it following instructions over here.

I notice that Livejournal itself is a https.

Hmmm.

Click on the picture to view a larger version or to get to the folder of pictures of Chinatown in Singapore.
Chinese, happiness

Life: in minutiae

The view from the living room
Broom packaging, a photo by shimmertje on Flickr.

It has been windy yesterday and today. Today I learned that what I thought was the sound of drilling coming from downstairs actually came from the bathroom exhaust fan fighting against incoming air.

We didn't get scissors or paper yesterday but did get the broom (hA) so I was able to sweep the room with its glittering and resistant blue fibres, assured that it was picking up hair and dust perfectly. There weren't dust pans on sale so I figured I could just sweep everything downstairs and out the main door.

Note #1 to self: always check what's downstairs. Move the freshly laundered clothing out of the way first.

Note #2 to self: check if there is a pesky ledge at the main door that could prevent you from sweeping anything right out. Especially when the prevailing breeze is blowing everything right back inside.

The laundry looks ok after a bit of whacking around. I suppose the remaining detritus will have to be picked up with a damp tissue. I'll get the garbage out in the late afternoon anyway, when it's cooler.

Then it was the challenge of reheating lunch, when I managed to lock the Ariston hob so nothing worked other than an annoying winking lock button. It's amazing what help you can get from the Internet. After sifting through masses of irrelevant data. Only to find you had been doing it right all along, just that you have to press the lock button for an incredibly long time.

Then I tried to add mushrooms, tomatoes and an egg to the existing scrambled egg, bacon, corned beef and fish sauce, because it was way too salty for me in the first place.

Note #3 to self: when eggs have green spots, it is probably normal to have the egg yolk go green and refuse to leave the shell.

Note #4 to self: adding water to make a salty soup would probably work better.

Sh is taking leave and I suggested visiting Katara. It has some good reviews on TripAdvisor. The singing sands might be another option but they sound very hot, and I have been hot enough already.

About an hour to asr, after which I will take care of the dishes, laundry, garbage and maybe repack for Oman. 14 friends who have agreed to meet, 7 days, and no car. An interesting combination.

Click on the picture to view a larger version of it, or to get to the folder of pictures of life in Doha.

Chinese, happiness

Life: This is Doha

So I've been in Doha five days. We had a hotel the first few days, and then I had to postpone my flight to Muscat; so I will be in Doha two weeks and Muscat a week (inshallah).

The accommodation is in Lavendar (sic) Village, which is a compound of some 240 villas and 40 apartments. The cookie cutter houses are all the same light yellow, three storeys high with a tiny balcony to one side. I begin to suspect that the furniture inside is all the same too judging from the stack of chairs near the entrance.

There is precious little to do here. It is too hot to go outside, and very dusty. This weather, of 40+ C days, is expected to stay till the 17th. I was told by a nice Qatari man that I should come after November, when it is cooler. "You can sit outside," he assured me.

There is nothing much to do socially when you don't know anyone. It's not like people sit on their doorsteps and wave hi. I Googled and the only lady who blogged about Lavender Village had moved out, saying she had pretty bad memories of the place and would not be back in a hurry.

As houses go there is little to complain about. The floors are polished marble, the furniture in the usual opulent Arabic style, all browns and golds in keeping with the walls. There are air conditioning units (LG) in all rooms, including the kitchen. There is integrated storage.

I have satellite TV with the BBC on tap; most of the other channels are in Arabic, or require payment. I have ADSL-backed Wi-Fi which offers intermittent connectivity up to the second floor, but no higher. There is a tiny pool for women and children. There is a mosque by the entrance, but no adhans so I suspect it is merely a shell. The purported kindergarten is deserted, the supermarket has been closed for months to years depending on who you ask, and I doubt the sign to the basketball court points to any such thing. I am told there is an air conditioned gym too, where Sh's housemate goes jogging.

This is a country where everyone drives. We don't have a car, maybe when the residence permit, usually just called the RP, comes through. I have been without a car in Muscat but at least there was always something to walk to. Not here.

Every expat wife I have spoken to assures me that life in Doha is lovely. I haven't quite seen this bit yet. In Muscat I had the good fortune to get to know a lot of really nice people who made life wonderful. I really don't know what to expect here if I choose to stay.
I will need to drive myself around at the very least. I'm honestly not sure I can without help - I practised hours and hours before I could do it by myself in Muscat.

In the meantime, the hours from 7am to 6pm are mine to fill. There is Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and email. There is lunch and washing up after; there is the laundry. Yesterday I spent half an hour taking pictures of the mosque and looking for the swimming pool. Today I have decided to mop our bedroom, and I tidied the fridge, too. Keeping the ubiquitous dust at bay always takes some time. Tonight the thrice weekly shuttle will bring us to a supermarket; it was Landmark/Carrefour on Friday, it will be Lulu tonight and then Carrefour again, but at City Centre.

At Landmark there was time to sit down at the Noodle House for dinner, leaving half an hour for a mad dash to grab groceries before pickup time. There is to be more time to shop at Lulu because there is nowhere to have dinner - so we will buy takeaways. I already have a list of small things to buy, if we have time.

A nail clipper. Scissors. Slippers my size. Lotion, thismplace is dryer than I thought. We are nearly out of lemons and 3-in-1 coffee. Maybe another bowl. Wastebins for sure. Paper, maybe. I'll grab what I can.

The evening will be spent unpacking and storing the spoils, dinner, shower and bed. Maybe some TV. It's a life; I'm just not sure if I can mould it into the life I want.

Click on the picture to view a larger version or to get to the folder of pictures of life in Doha.

Chinese, happiness

Life: bizarre

SD card woes
SD card woes, a photo by shimmertje on Flickr.

So this weekend I go to M1 to get a SIM for the iPad. Then I try to get it onto the corporate email. It refuses.

Then I try to print a document at work. Adobe keeps telling me I didn't specify any pages to print.

Then I get home and realise my iPhone isn't getting email. Right, my email is down.

And then on Sunday the gate won't lock.

And when I look at my iPhone again I realise I'm getting no data at all.

Turns out the iPad SIM conflicted with my iPhone SIM and no one told me I had to reset my network on the iPhone. Even so my email was still down.

That is, till Monday. My email works fine on the iPhone and the iPad. My document printed fine. The lock is still flakey though.